Honest feedback: Barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback


Feedback is information provided to recipients about their behavior, performance, or understanding, the goal of which is to foster recipients’ self-awareness, and behavioral reinforcement or change. Yet, feedback often fails to achieve this goal. For feedback to be effective, recipients must be receptive and accurately understand the meaning and veracity of the feedback (i.e., discern the truth in feedback). Honesty is critically important for both receptivity and discerning the truth in the feedback. In this article, we identify barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback and illustrate how these barriers hinder recipients’ learning and improvement. Barriers can arise from the feedback itself, the feedback-giver, and the feedback-recipient, and both parties share responsibility for removing them.


This paper provides useful insights into how to give and receive feedback and what can prevent that from happening successfully. FIML practice, which can be thought of as a form of micro interpersonal feedback, overcomes all barriers mentioned in the paper. FIML works well because partners: 1) make a prior agreement to do it and how to do it; 2) ask for feedback that is immediately useful to them; 3) ask immediately upon noticing the need for feedback; 4) ask for very specific information residing solely in their partner’s working memory; 5) all of the preceding points contribute to small and easily kept honest bits of very reliable feedback. Since the topic of the feedback is very small and mutually agreed upon by both partners is can be understood as a significant kind of objective reality that exists between the two of them. This greatly promotes interest in the practice and honesty between partners. ABN

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